Namibian elite's kids rake it in
Many children of Namibia’s political leaders have joined the scramble for lucrative state concessions and contracts that have turned them into overnight millionaires. They include the daughter of President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Kaupumhote Pohamba.
The preferential treatment also applies to educational opportunities. In 2009 the Chinese government secretly awarded scholarships to study in China to the offspring of nine top officials, including one of Pohamba’s daughters, Ndapanda.
Some of the globe-trotting youngsters are reported to have promised meetings with Namibia’s top politicians in return for business partnerships, and others have received contracts from ministries where their parents work or where they exercise authority.
The Windhoek-based nongovernmental Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has repeatedly called for better laws to prevent the families of the elite from enriching themselves.
Namibia is struggling with chronic youth unemployment, given as 56% by the Namibia Statistics Agency for those between the age of 15 to 19, whereas 49% of those between 20 and 24 have no jobs.
Excellence or enrichment?
IPPR has called for an improved code of conduct to tighten controls over declarations of interest by public officials, to reduce the risk of state resources being dished out to relatives.
Al Jazeera quoted IPPR director, Graham Hopwood, last month as saying state resources are seen by the politically connected as being up for grabs, rather than being allocated through a fair and competitive process.
“Namibia is at a tipping point; endemic corruption is inevitable if stern action is not taken in the near future,” Hopwood said.
Some consider the emergence of a local elite as evidence of economic success and black excellence, but others object that resources should be more evenly shared.
Spokesperson for the Swapo Party Youth League Job Amupanda is one of those worried by the trend of elite enrichment. “They [the elite] are a danger to the future of mother Africa,” Amupanda said.
Ruling-class children seen as state beneficiaries include:
The son of the Namibian minister of home affairs, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, Kaulinge has business interests in the petroleum exploration industry.
His company, Amis Energy, is a partner of Pan African Oil, which holds three oil exploration licences in Namibia. Kaulinge is the country manager of Pan African Oil. As such, he is a beneficiary of government-issued licences.
He is also a director of Mack Fishing, which has a joint venture with the government, officially to boost local participation in the fishing sector.
Additionally, he is a director of GPT-Transnamib Concrete Sleepers, a subsidiary co-owned by the parastatal rail company TransNamib, which was launched in 2011 at a cost of R50-million.
Kaulinge did not respond to questions sent to him.
King Frans Indongo:
The son of former politician turned business bigwig Frans Indongo, King Frans holds two petroleum exploration licences through Leopard Investments, which is 85% owned by a firm in the British Virgin Islands tax haven.
He is the executive vice-president of his father’s business empire. Monthly magazine Insight reported last year that King Frans promised investors on a Chinese social network that prospective business partners would be given the opportunity to meet President Pohamba, former president Sam Nujoma and former minister of mines Erkki Nghimtina.
Indongo rejected claims that he is being favoured, saying he is constitutionally entitled to state contracts.
“My businesses had nothing to do with the fact that my father is a multibillionaire or well connected,” he told amaBhungane. “I am a professional investor who has invested my hard-earned money in a number of listed companies around the world.”
He did not respond to allegations that he had promised meetings with Namibia’s political kingpins in return for business partnerships.
Angula is the daughter of Helmut Angula, a politician who served in five Cabinet portfolios between 1990 and 2009. She is a director of two of his companies, Dinamo Diamonds and Eco Namibia.
In terms of the “sightholder” empowerment scheme, Dinamo receives diamonds on discount from a joint venture of the Namibian government and De Beers.
In addition, Eco Namibia has 10 prospecting oil rights in Namibia.
Phillipine did not respond to questions sent to her by amaBhungane.
Kaupomhote Pohamba, President Pohamba’s daughter, bagged a controversial R16.4-million housing contract from parastatal National Housing Enterprise last year. Her firm Kata Investments was awarded the contract 12 months after she launched it. Her company and its Chinese partners are now short-listed for a R400-million road tender.
Kaupumhote (26) is an information technology graduate of the Polytechnic of Namibia. Her business partner, Taschiona Gawaxab, was reported as saying that they competed in a male-dominated industry and that the tender would be the first of many.
The presidency said Pohamba had no influence on the tender Kaupumhote received and that Pohamba’s children are adults who make their own decisions about who they do business with, without consulting their father.
Kaupomhote could not be reached for comment.
The son of the health minister, Richard Kamwi, co-owns Likoze Investments, which received a R35-million agriculture ministry construction contract to install a rural water pipeline last year.
The weekly newspaper Windhoek Observer reported that Simasiku as exempted from paying a R400?000 fine that is normally handed out to companies that fail to complete projects on time and was given special treatment after he wrote to the government explaining why the project was not finished.
Simasiku told the Mail & Guardian this week: “I was not favoured – full stop.”
The son of the minister of youth, Jerry Ekandjo, clinched a mass housing contract worth R42-million this year through his two-year-old company Oruhapo Property Solutions.
Ekandjo also served as a minister of housing until December 2012.
In June this year he was quoted as hotly rejecting suggestions that his previous portfolio might have influenced the awarding of the contract to his son.
Sam said children of leaders are individuals in their own right and should be judged on their own merits and not those of their parents.
“One deserves to be criticised if the manner one gets a tender is unfair or corrupt,” he said. “There are calls for Namibians, especially the youth, to be job creators and risk-takers … If some children of leaders have stepped up to this call and decided to be active individuals in society their initiative should be welcomed.”
Mushimba is the son of the late empowerment mogul Aaron Mushimba, the brother-in-law of former president Nujoma.
Frans has a government petroleum prospecting licence though his company Indigenous Energy.
He could not be reached for comment.
Older children of Namibia’s independence politicians also accumulated wealth, including the sons of Sam Nujoma.
In 2009, Nujoma’s oldest son, Utoni Nujoma declared to Parliament that he had business interests in more than 14 companies.
His string of interests began in 1996 in sectors where the state has a powerful influence, including diamonds and fishing. Some companies became dormant.
Nujoma’s youngest son, Zacky, a geologist, is involved in exploration deals requiring state licences, such as diamonds and uranium.
Businessman Sadike Nepela is the son of Lucas Nepela, one of Swapo’s founders. As well as receiving diamonds at a discount from a government co-owned company, he owns Etale Fishing, which received a horse mackerel fishing quota last year.
In an interview with amaBhu–ngane in September, he agreed that the fisheries ministry had allocated the quota in error because he did not have the required licence or processing facilities.
He later sold the quota for about R40-million, justifying the transaction by saying that the sale of the quota had enabled him to employ local people.
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